Indian politics is in turmoil following Left parties withdrawal of support to the UPA Government on the Indo-US civil nuclear deal. Reckless realignment of political forces is taking place at a rapid speed. Mulyam Singh'sSP that was the sworn enemy of the Congress for decades has embraced the ruling party at the risk of alienating its Muslim vote bank by lending all out to support to the controversial deal. Having been ditched by SP, CPM leader Prakash Karat sought and obtained BSP'scommitment to vote against the Government on the trust vote to achieve his goal of making it ?politically impossible? for the Prime Minister to finalise the agreement. This marriage of convenience amenably suits both the parties. It may enable the Left to punish the Congress for its ?betrayal? and keeps Left'sdream of a non-Congress, non-BJP ?third front? alive. As for Mayawati, she needs Left? support in fighting legal and political battle against CBI probe into charges against her in the disproportionate asset case and encourages her to believe that she may achieve her irresistible ambition of becoming Prime Minister some day. Chandrababu Naidu too chipped in by announcing that he would meet leaders of Left parties, BSP and UNPA before the trust vote to evolve a common strategy.
The Left parties feel cheated. For more than four years they had enjoyed immense power that was totally disproportionate to their strength in Parliament and outside. They stalled UPA Government'scountless initiatives on economic, social and foreign policies. They endlessly abused and threatened the UPA but stopped short of bringing the government down until the PM forced them to do what they did. They are no fools and know that the collapse of the Government will lead to elections in which they are not expected to do as well as they did in 2004 but now they are keener that even the BJP to bring down the Government. Communists? opposition to the deal has nothing to do with national interests. Their stubborn resistance to the nuclear deal is based on their obsolete and redundant ideology of the cold war era, namely resisting strategic relations with the United States of America. Protecting national interests has never been their concern. Their role during Quit India movement, Chinese aggression in 1962 and their silence over countless Chinese intrusions in Arunachal Pradesh in recent months are but a few examples of their betrayal of national interests.
The Congress suffered Left parties abuses and insults for more than four years as the price for its Government'ssurvival. Sources in PMO repeatedly leaked to the media PM'sthreats to quit if the deal was not through. Sonia Gandhi fell in line after she was assured that an alternative arrangement was in place in case the Left withdrew support. SP had no problem taking a U turn for it knows that the Congress is too weak in UP to be any threat to its Muslim vote bank. On the other hand, Mulayam Singh needs Congress support to fight BSP that pose him the real threat in the state. A murky dimension to the understanding between the Congress and the SP is personal and business agendas of both Mulayam Singh and Amar Singh. The latter has already presented his wish list to the Congress. Those who know Amar Singh are unwilling to believe when he says his demands are not conditions for the party'ssupport to the Government.
Merits of the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement apart, the manner in which the Congress handled the issue is intriguing. The party made no effort to evolve a broad national consensus on the issue to facilitate its early finalisation. BJP'smajor concern is that the nation'sstrategic autonomy shouldn'tbe sacrificed in an effort to achieve energy autonomy. The party is apprehensive that as it stands today, the deal would cap India'sright to conduct nuclear tests. No concerted effort was made to address these genuine apprehensions even as the Government concentrated its energies to convince the Left parties. The Government response to BJP'sconcerns over Hyde Act was that that was America'sdomestic law and was not applicable to us. Every time the Government made that statement, Washington lost no time in rebutting the claim. Since the BJP is for strategic relations with US?in fact it was NDA that made the first moves in that direction?and was not against the deal per se, what prevented the Government from seeking BJP support for the deal by addressing its concerns? They wanted the Government to examine the possibility of amending Atomic Energy Act to insulate India from the consequences of the Hyde Act. Another sensible suggestion made by the BJP was to set up a parliamentary committee to examine the issue in depth and make recommendation to the Prime Minister. The Government'sresponse was that no parliamentary committee could be formed in respect of an international agreement. But it went ahead and constituted a UPA-Left committee to discuss the issue that failed to resolve a single issue. There was a deadlock leading to parting of ways between the ruling alliance and the Left front. Within hours of being reduced to a minority in Parliament, the Government overturned the solemn assurance given to the nation by Pranab Mukherjee that the Government would seek a trust vote before going to IAEA. The Government'scontention that circulation of draft safeguards agreement was just a procedure and didn'tamount to seeking its ratification is not convincing. It so outraged the Opposition that it attacked the move as ?deceitful and duplicitous?.
Battle lines have already been drawn over the July 22 trust vote. Underhand deals over wish lists are order of the day. Both sides appear to be evenly placed. It will be touch and go. Congress led alliance claims the support of 268 members, including 226 of UPA, 37 of JD (S), one each of BNP and NLP and three of Independents. It hopes to cross the 272 marks required for majority in a House with an effective strength of 543 by winning over certain tiny parties that are still undecided. However, its presumption that five members of JMM?part of 226-member UPA?will vote for the Government may not come true if Shibu Soren'sdemands for a cabinet seat and his party leading the coalition in Jharkhand are not met. On the other side of the spectrum are 260 including 169 of NDA, 59 of the Left Parties, one each of KEC and JD (S), five of TDP, two of AGP, two of INDP, 17 of BSP, two of breakaway SP, two of MDMK. TRS with three members say it would not support the Government if a bill creating a separate state of Telangana is passed by Parliament. The fight is for 11 members who are still undecided. They include three of RLD, two of National Conference and one each of several small parties and splinter groups. The Government may or may not succeed in buying their support with promises and, if media reports are to be believed, even cash. If the Government survives, it will delight the Congress and its allies to no end as they are terribly scared of an early election, what with back-breaking high prices, failure to check terrorism and naxal violence, revival of separatist movement in J&K and several emotive issues like the Amarnath Shrine Board controversy troubling the public mind.